I tried another self-portrait last week. As always, I’m frustrated with my inability to capture my own self in paint, and also with the weird distortions that come up (how did I end up looking so masculine?). However, I’m quite pleased with the shadows on my neck, and I think there’s something nice about the dabby blended colors. I’d been looking at Walter’s digitalscapes right before I started, and though my work doesn’t look anything like his, I think I was influenced by his impressionistic light/color-play and fuzzy outlines.
My portraits always irk me because I don’t seem to know how to work at length in the medium without everything becoming muddy and ponderous — at least, the end results look that way to me, since I have a very different impression in my head. Erik said, though, “You only think it sucks because you’re so much better now. A year or two ago you would have been thrilled to make this.” He’s right.
All the same, I wanted to know if I could capture myself any more accurately in a quick sketch, so I picked up the brush and looked into the mirror and did as fast a drawing as I could — I think I was done in 5 minutes or less. This one looks even less like me, so it wasn’t a useful exercise, though it was still fun to do (especially after laboring away at the other portrait for almost an hour).
Actually, though, I’m now looking over the first painted self-portrait I ever did, a little over a year ago (August 2010), and I think it’s got something too. I’m impressed with my level of fine detail, even if the overall effect is pretty wooden. That one was mostly gouache, if I remember right, which is probably how I managed the detail without the colors blending too much. Maybe on my next attempt I’ll try gouache again.
It always interests me to go back over my earlier self-portraits and compare them all to one another. I almost always feel that there’s something redeeming about each, and very often I even feel that some of that good quality has gotten lost as I’ve “improved” with time. With each comparison I can never draw any conclusions except that I’d better just keep going. Perhaps that’s the only real conclusion to draw, anyway. Keep going, keep going!
I have to mention, also, that as a model I am getting pretty fed up with trying to paint myself too. It’s hard, and it’s boring, to sit staring into a mirror and try to get my likeness that way. I so wish I could step outside of my body for an hour and see myself at a few arms’-length. As a painter I long for more expressiveness in the portraits, and as the sitter I want the same in my poses. Grrr.